Every now and then I get a chance to talk with some pretty amazing artists. Hannah Glavor is no exception, although she is exceptional. She is a Portland-based musician whose powerful varierty of indie-folk-gospel will leave you pretty well breathless. Either before, during, or after you read this interview you must listen to her songs here. Also, fund her Kickstarter.
Easel Ain’t Easy: O My Wandering Heart, your first album, covers themes of searching, restlessness, and a desire for peace, is that how you would describe it?
Hannah Glavor: Yeah, it was a hodgepodge of songs I had written over a series of several years that greatly reflected my personal journey. I’ve always had a heart for communicating hope and peace to those who need to hear it most, and it just happened to come out of me musically. Its all stuff I’m walking through and wrestling with, so its incredibly real for me.
EAE: I was really drawn to the art on the cover, which features a bird. Despite the Portlandia catchphrase “put a bird on it,” birds have more than a decorative purpose in your music. When you summon birds in your songs it seems to have great personal meaning. “Spread my wings and I am soaring high” for example. What’s the significance of birds for you?
HG: The first word I think of is freedom. They are carefree and delicate, but there is this majesty in their flight. It’s hard not to be too Portlandy and cliche by including them in my album art, but that imagery is weighty for me. They’re satisfied, free and beautiful.
EAE: One of your songs, Kingfisher, a crowd-favorite, has a much darker feel to it. Does that still purvey freedom to you? Can you have freedom and beauty in the midst of a storm?
HG: I think its a matter of a broader perspective. Storms do suck. You get wet and it’s cold and you can get knocked over by the wind and waves. No one wants to deal with the destruction of storms. But it’s a matter of what carries you through that, and the strength that’s built after having made it through. That there is hope outside of our circumstance. A promised peace beyond our storms. That we don’t have to be alone in our darkness. So yeah. I’m down with it being dark and gritty, because as it works its way through the song, there is this freedom at the end.
The song in and of itself has by no means an answer or prescription to weathering the storms. To be honest, it’s just a walk through an old Greek myth of Alcyone, where these lovers were turned into kingfishers, or halcyon birds, by the gods. I liked the story so much I wrote a song about it.
EAE: And Halcyon is the name of your upcoming EP! How did you become interested in that story, and that concept?
HG: I first found the term “Halcyon” in an old hymn, so I did some research. I fell in love with the idea of “halcyon days” which is an old nautical term that harkens back to that greek tale denoting a time of peace after the storm. The whole heart behind “halcyon days” is why I wrote the song Kingfisher in the first place. There are a lot of similar themes throughout Halcyon of wrestling that came out of a stormy season for me in this upcoming album, but it has themes of hope that shine out of that place.
EAE: Stylistically, how does Halcyon build up on or differ from O My Wandering Heart?
HG: Musically, it’s more complex. We have something to build off of, whereas before we had to invent our sound with the help of our first producer. Also, I now have a band. On my first album, I pulled people into my art on a temporary basis. I now see the importance of partnering with others, and the beauty that can be created as a team. Lyrically and thematically, Halcyon gets real. Rather than broad brush strokes over basic emotions, thoughts or ideas, I’m communicating things more freely. It makes it a more real experience for me and gives way for more authentic points of connection for others.
EAE: You mention the community aspect of writing and recording music, but you are also bringing community into the fundraising, production, and promotion of your new album. When so many artists view creation as a solitary, independent act, why go this route?
HG: One of the reasons that I write music is coming from a desire to advocate for and to walk in life with others towards restoration. It only makes sense that I want to invite people into the ppartnering asking art with me. For music to be captured well, it takes a lot of money to afford studio costs, producers, mixing, mastering, cd duplication, printing… You name it, it costs something, and it’s not cheap. It’s an unfortunate industry that leaves a lot of us talented independent artists who are scraping by financially by the wayside.
For our upcoming album, we chose to launch a Kickstarter, which is a secure online fundraising tool with a deadline and a consequence if your minimum amount needed isn’t raised. Its good incentive, and it provides accountability on all ends since no money is lost if the funds don’t go through.
EAE: You’ve said that you don’t see yourself having fans so much as a partnership. What’s the difference?
HG: I think that a community that cares about each other should invest in each other. Not that I’m particularly deserving, nor am I the expert at my craft, but I think there is a message and sound that’s worth sharing. I can’t afford recording in a nice studio, but I am one of many who believe my band and I should. So, I’m teaming with my loved ones, and bit by bit we’re making our way towards a mutual financial backing of an album that is community-based and inclusive. There’s a message that gets to be experienced and shared on an incredibly meaningful level because of the corporate involvement. The album simply wouldn’t exist without the time, heart, and finances invested in us as a band by our community.
EAE: What does that mean, to be community-based and inclusive. How is this more than just getting money to make an album?
HG: This is bigger than myself. I feel like my music was never for me in the first place. It was always meant to be shared. And I would like that level of involvement to break through walls of presenter-to-presentee and to be a collective experience. Especially in its creation stages, from a single melody to recording studio.
On a small scale, this means I make a point to connect with people at my shows, to personally correspond with supporters to support other artists at their shows, events, Kickstarters and records. I do silly things like make youtube covers with my friends, I share our band’s time and talent with causes we believe in.
I want art to be relational: an active partnering with something that people connect with, and with someone they believe in on a level that goes beyond charity and sympathy funding.
Only 3 days left to donate to Hannah Glavor’s Kickstarter, please help out if you can! The incentives are fantastic, including (but not limited to) hand- knit mittens, posters, CDs, YouTube covers, original songs, and private house shows! Donate today!